“The Magic Window, which for forty years was hosted by a woman named Betty Lou Varnum. In every episode, Betty Lou would introduce a craft-making segment by announcing the materials needed. These were always kid-safe items that could be found around the house. But the kids had to find everything fast, really fast or Betty Lou would go on without them.” –The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow (Gotham, 2010) Betty Lou Varnum was a TV personality at WOI-TV in central Iowa. She began her career in 1954 as host of a program for children, “The Magic Window.” She also hosted other WOI-TV programs “Dimension 5,” “Status 6,” and “Stringer’s Newscast.” Varnum was an announcer for a number of televised VEISHEA parades at Iowa State University and Iowa State Fair parades in Des Moines, Iowa. She retired from WOI-TV in 1994.
As the cold days of winter have settled in for many of us, state parks are probably not on many plans for the coming months. However, there is now an additional option to learn about the history of Iowa’s state parks from the comfort of the indoors. As mentioned in a previous post, the Special Collections and University Archives has an exhibition on display through the end of the year which tells the story of the early state parks movement here in Iowa: “This movement for a more beautiful Iowa”: The Early Years of Iowa’s State Park System. Unable to visit the exhibition in person? There’s now an alternative! Digital Initiatives and SCUA are excited to announce that the online version of the state parks exhibit is now available, along with the accompanying Iowa State Parks Digital Collection (which contains digitized materials used in the physical exhibit along with additional materials from SCUA’s collections).
The online exhibit extends the focus of the physical exhibit to include additional information on the parks system as a whole, the people behind the park names, the role of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and a broader history of the parks’ design, construction, and the natural areas they preserve. There is only so much space for the physical exhibits, so it was satisfying to see some of what we were not able to include in the physical exhibit incorporated into the online version. As one of the curators of the physical exhibit, I was able to work on both the physical exhibit and then the online exhibit. It was a great experience to see how the online exhibit became a companion to – and expanded on – our physical exhibit.
In addition to the images and textual content, the online exhibit also includes some fun interactive aspects including a StoryMap (created using Knight Lab’s StoryMap) which gives a tour of all 55 Iowa State Parks in 2017, in the order of their founding:
…and “quizzes” (but the fun kind – no grading involved!). The fill-in-the-blank and true/false examples pictured below are from the page on Backbone State Park.
We were also able to add footnotes to the Drupal-based exhibit – which was exciting for us to learn about and to be able to incorporate into the text. For details on how this was done, visit Lori Bousson’s blog post over on the Digital Initiatives and Scholarship blog, DSI Update.
A lot of work goes into the creation of exhibits – both the reading room and online versions, and we hope that at least a few of you have been able to visit it here on the 4th floor of Parks Library. Thanks to the help of people from across the library, we have been able to make the research, design and work of the physical exhibit available online for people to view across the world – with no closing date!
Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) have joined the American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s month-long celebration of the Public Broadcasting Act’s 50th Anniversary by posting content throughout the month to celebrate the history and preservation of public broadcasting! This is our second post commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 and this week I’m highlighting some finding aids for our collections related to noted local and regional radio broadcasters.
John D. “Jack” Shelley was born in Boone, Iowa on March 8, 1912. He graduated from Boone High School (1929), and earned a Bachelor of Journalism Degree from the University of Missouri at Columbia (1935). After a short stay with the Iowa Herald in Clinton, Iowa, Shelley went to work for WHO radio in Des Moines, Iowa. He was assistant news director for five years, then became news director for both radio and television until he left in 1965. Shelley was a war correspondent in Europe and the Pacific covering World War II. He interviewed hundreds of combat soldiers in both theaters. Shelley recorded one of the first broadcast interviews with crew members of the airplanes that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. He was aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay to cover the Allies’ acceptance of the unconditional Japanese surrender, and was one of twenty reporters chosen to cover the atomic bomb tests at Yucca Flats, Nevada (1953). The tape recorder Shelley took along to record the event was one of the few to withstand the shock of the blast.
In 1965, Mr. Shelley joined Iowa State University as an Associate Professor of Journalism, then served as Professor until his retirement in 1982. Iowa State University honored him for his academic contributions with an Outstanding Teacher Award and a Faculty Citation from the Iowa State University Alumni Association.
Jack Shelley helped found the Iowa Broadcast News Association, an organization that honored him by establishing the Jack Shelley Award in 1971. He is a past president of the International Radio-Television News Directors Association, which he helped found, and of the Associated Press Radio and Television Association. He was president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council (1981) and a member of a committee appointed by the Iowa Supreme Court to advise it on the use of cameras and tape recorders in court trials. He received the Broadcaster of the Year Award (1980) from the Iowa Broadcasters Association.
Herbert Plambeck was born February 29, 1908 and raised in Scott County, Iowa. He graduated from Iowa State University with a major in agriculture (1936). He began his professional career as a USDA College (University) County Extension employee, but in 1935 he became Farm Editor for the Davenport (Iowa) Times Democrat. In 1936, he was named Farm Director for WHO-Radio in Des Moines, a position he held until 1970. Plambeck was then appointed assistant to the U.S. Secretary for Agriculture where he focused on public affairs. Plambeck was a member of the U.S. Agricultural Delegation to the Soviet Union in 1955, where he made the first farm broadcast report from Russia. He repeated this feat when he delivered the first farm broadcast from China in 1976.
John C. Baker was born in 1909 in Brazil, Indiana. He received his B.S. (1930) in agriculture from Purdue University. He began farm broadcasting at the Purdue radio station WBAA from 1930-1931. He also worked stints in farm broadcasting in Massachusetts, Chicago, and in the radio service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he participated in the National Farm and Home Hour on NBC and The American Farmer on ABC. In the 1950s and 1960s, he worked as an information officer in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Census Bureau. He published Farm Broadcasting: The First Sixty Years with Iowa State University Press in 1981.
Amy N. Worthen: The World in Perspective, August 22 – December 17, 2017, Brunnier Art Museum, 295 Scheman Building, Iowa State University
Is there a book you’ve had a conversation with over the course of your life? Has its meaning changed each time you return to it? Has it influenced your own work?
Here is an opportunity to see such a conversation play out in the works of an artist.
About a year ago, I was contacted by Adrienne Gennett, Assistant Curator of Collections and Education at Iowa State University Museums, about the possibility of Special Collections and University Archives loaning some early printed books for an exhibition featuring a locally-based printmaker to help illustrate the history of printmaking. I had never been involved in an exhibition loan, but I was excited by the idea of our collections reaching an audience outside the library’s walls. As I met first with Adrienne, and joined later by the artist, Amy Worthen, the ideas for the book portion of the exhibit began to take shape.
Amy Worthen sent me a list of books with prints that had been influential to her–both as an art historian and as an artist. Since she lives for part of the year in Venice, Italy, she also listed some of our early books printed in Venice.
As Amy and Adrienne paged through books here in Special Collections, I got a peak behind the curtain, listening to their curatorial conversations as they determined the interplay of historical to contemporary prints.
After the final selections were made, other library staff contributed to getting the books ready for their exhibition debut. The library’s conservator, Sonya Barron, reviewed the items to identify any needed repairs. Preservation department staff member Jim Wilcox built the cradles to support the books. Finally, the books were ready for packing up and installation, completed by Sonya in collaboration with Museums curator Adrienne.
When I visited the exhibit, it was satisfying to see the final results. As Rare Books and Manuscripts Archivist, I was delighted to see some familiar faces in a new setting, and viewing the results of Amy Worthen’s “conversations” with the early prints was illuminating.
One of the first cases you see when you enter the room lays the foundation for the exhibit. Two volumes are displayed side-by-side in a case. One is entirely text–the entry from Denis Diderot’s French Enlightenment Encyclopédie on “Gravure,” or engraving. To its right is one of the encyclopedia’s plates volumes, opened to an illustration of engraving tools. When you turn to your left, you see a corresponding case of engraving tools and a copper plate, etched with fine lines by the artist. Hanging above it on the wall is Worthen’s framed artist’s proof of Strumenti d’ Incisione (Engraving Tools), 1995, a true counterpart to the Encyclopédie‘s illustration–she created it to illustrate her entry on printmaking for the Grove Dictionary of Art.
Another example of Amy Worthen’s prints in conversation with earlier pieces can be seen in the pairing of a print from Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Le antichità romane (1756) (call number NA1120 .P664a), with the artist’s Catacomb. The accompanying label reads, “When she was in college Worthen first saw original Piranesi etchings. She was greatly inspired by his approach to architecture – part documentation, part exaggeration, and part fantasy.” Both of the prints feature Roman catacombs, or underground burial sites.
Some of my favorite pieces in the exhibition are those with elements of whimsy and humor, such as The Department of Agriculture, depicting a cow seated at a desk inside the State Capitol building addressing a group of animals including 2 pigs and a litter of piglets, a rooster, and a big-horn sheep. I laughed out loud when I saw Worthen’s Self-Portrait as a Pineapple:
This is only a sneak peek at the exhibit. You’ll want to visit in person to see the eight books from Special Collections and more than one hundred prints, sketchbooks, and printing plates.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) will be joining the American Archive of Public Broadcasting‘s month-long celebration of the Public Broadcasting Act’s 50th Anniversary by posting content throughout the month to celebrate the history and preservation of public broadcasting!
This week’s post will highlight our WOI Radio and Television Records (RS 5/6/3).
WOI-AM went on the air on April 28, 1922, with regular market news broadcasts. During the next 25 years, the scope of station programming expanded to encompass all areas of Iowa State‘s activities including agricultural programming, programs for homemakers, lectures, forums, and classical music. On July 1, 1949, WOI-FM became one of the first FM stations in Iowa when it started broadcasting. In 2004, WOI Radio became part of Iowa Public Radio.
WOI-TV went on the air in February 1950 and for several years was the first station in central Iowa to offer a regular schedule of programming. It was the first television station owned and operated by an institution of higher learning and was noteworthy for its early experiments in Kinescope recording techniques. WOI-TV was sold to Capital Communications Company, Inc. in 1994.
This collection contains correspondence, news clippings, reports, brochures and other publications, and minutes from WOI Board meetings. The records also include information on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensing and the tax cases in which WOI was involved. In addition, the records include scripts and other documents for various WOI Radio and Television programs, such as “The Prairie Valley Intelligencer” and “The Homemaker’s Half-Hour.” There are also audience surveys, Nielson Ratings showing the station in comparison to other area stations, and programming schedules.
In light of tomorrow’s Homecoming 2017 Pop-Up Exhibition, today’s post is a #Throwback Thursday to last year’s pop-up exhibition. Below are pictures from October 28, 2016.
Last year I wrote a blog post about the preparations for Homecoming 2016 to show everyone how much work went into an exhibition, even a temporary one. This year we worked just as hard to put together an exhibit that we hope will evoke nostalgia for visiting alumni and pique the interest of current students, faculty, & staff at Iowa State University.
Please drop by tomorrow to check out what we’ve selected for display. We look forward to seeing you there!
I was invited this week to be a guest Instagrammer for the Society of American Archivists (SAA). Founded in 1936, SAA is the oldest and largest national professional association for archives and archivists in North America.
Hello! I’m Rachel Seale, the outreach archivist at Special Collections & University Archives at Iowa State University. This week is #homecomingweek2017 for us & we have some fun events planned, so stay tuned! We don’t have an Instagram account but do visit us on Facebook @SpecialCollectionsISULibrary & on Twitter @ISU_Archives.
I’ve been an SAA member since 2010 and have served on the Security Section (2013-2016) and currently serve on the Committee on Public Awareness. Special Collections & University Archives doesn’t have an Instagram account at this time, so please make sure to follow Society of American Archivist’s Instagram (@saarchivists).
In 2016, the Iowa State University Library completed a six-year project to digitize an entire run of the campus yearbook, the Bomb. Comprised of nearly 45,000 pages, the digital versions are not easily searchable due to the wide variety of fonts and graphic elements used throughout the decades. Just look at the text from one page of the 1911 Bomb. The font and layout are unique, making the automated transcription process nearly impossible.
With that in mind, in its inaugural “Unsolved Histories” Project the Iowa State Digital Initiatives Unit has launched a crowd sourcing transcription project entitled, “Transcribe the Bomb.” It is our hope that by transcribing these yearbooks a wider audience can explore and find memories of themselves, their families and friends, favorite campus moments, and world events through the Iowa State University lens. Transcribing takes place online, found here:
You can try your hand at transcribing ISU yearbooks at the “Bomb” Transcribe-a-thon on Wednesday, October 25th, noon- 4:00 p.m. in Room 134. University Archivist, Brad Kunnen, will speak on the history of the yearbook and its importance as a historical record.
Come learn about the Bomb and how to transcribe its content. A quick tutorial is all it takes to get started! The event is free and open to the public, including beginners, and will provide a fun opportunity to learn about ISU history.
Participants may come and go at any time during the afternoon. Sponsored by the University Library Digital Scholarship and Initiatives department
The Bomb Transcribe-a-thon, Wednesday October 25th, Noon- 4:00 p.m.
Room 134, Parks Library
With Halloween right around the corner, October is great time to be frightened. Everyone likes a little scare every now and then, right? During 1962, the October scare was very real, though. Nuclear war with the Soviet Union seemed like a distinct possibility and people’s greatest fears were on the verge of coming true. Fortunately, the event we refer to as the Cuban Missile Crisis did not result in direct military conflict with the Soviet Union, but in many ways the fear remained.
During this time, Iowa State was not complacent in preparing for potential war. In September 1961, the State Board of Regents requested that Iowa State prepare a Survival Plan in the event of a nuclear attack in the Midwest. President Hilton asked George Burnet to lead the committee to prepare such a plan. Based largely upon the National Plan for Civil Defense and Defense Mobilization, Iowa State’s plan designated fallout shelters on campus, provided shelters with enough food and supplies for two weeks, and identified key personnel to take leadership roles in the event of such an attack.
Extension was also hard at work helping prepare rural communities with plans to deal with nuclear fallout. If you ever wanted to learn how to build a barn to help livestock survive nuclear war, Extension gives you the answer. One particular publication, “Protecting Family and Livestock from Nuclear Fallout” (RCD-16), provided farmers with examples of farm structures that would help livestock survive as well as instructions on how to construct fallout shelters for people. It’s rather fascinating to look through the publication. I would be curious to know how many farmers actually built or modified their barns to take into account this possibility.
If this hasn’t frightened you off and you are interested in learning more about how the University prepared for a nuclear attack on the Midwest, please feel free to stop by the Special Collections and University Archives. Information on the ISU Survival Plan can be found in the Survival Plan Committee records, RS 8/6/90, while publications prepared by the Extension service are available in the Extension Rural Civil Defense collection, RS 16/3/5. We look forward to scaring, I mean, seeing you!